We call this behavior “scooting.” It’s a sign of itching or discomfort in the area under the tail. Dogs and cats do this for several common reasons, and many pet owners have the misconception that this behavior is caused by worms. But for dogs and cats living in this climate, that’s rarely the case. When pet owners see this behavior, they should lift the pet’s tail and take a look at the skin and hair in that area. Medium- and long-haired pets can get feces matted into the hair under their tails, causing discomfort when they try to defecate. The skin below the fecal mat is usually raw and irritated.
This is a grooming issue that improves once the dirty, matted hair is removed and the skin is cleaned. It’s a good idea to keep the area trimmed in long-haired dogs. Overweight cats also are often unable to groom that area and may need to have the hair under their tails and on the backs of their hind legs clipped shorter. Anal glands are another cause of scooting in dogs and cats. The anal glands are scent glands, one on each side of the anus, that secrete an oily substance on the feces. These glands can become full, inflamed or abscessed, causing discomfort and pain for the pet.
For unknown reasons, anal gland irritation and abscesses are more prevalent in small-breed dogs, though all types of dogs and cats can have these problems. Many small-breed dogs will routinely have their anal glands expressed every six to eight weeks to help prevent discomfort. Most groomers will express anal glands at the time of a grooming. In some cases, the discharge becomes too thick or the glands are painful and on the verge of rupture. In these situations, owners should seek help from a veterinarian.
Q: My dog has dew claws on her front feet. Should I have them removed?
Dew claws are the nails that grow on the inside of the legs just above the paws. Many breeders will remove dew claws in puppies when they are several days old. When this isn’t done, the next opportunity is often when the dog is spayed or neutered. Pet owners remove dew claws because they believe they are likely to get caught and tear. Hunting dogs routinely have dew claws removed because they bound through outdoors areas with lots of debris that can catch on the dew claws and cause them to tear.
I have seen many torn and broken nails. One thing they tend to have in common is that the nail was too long. I don’t think I’ve seen more torn dew claws than torn regular nails. But any nails that are overgrown will catch and tear. Dew claws aren’t worn down with regular walking on hard surfaces. As a result, dew claws typically grow longer faster and require routine trimming. An owner who is committed to keeping dew claws trimmed is less likely to experience a problem. An owner who is unwilling or unable to keep the dew claws trimmed should consider having them removed.